Mattis: Trump's message on NATO "consistent" with past presidents

Mattis weighs in on Trump, NATO
Mattis weighs in on Trump, NATO 01:18

President Trump's pressuring of NATO member states to pay their fair share for a common defense is "consistent" with the message delivered by past administrations, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told "Face the Nation" in an interview on Saturday.

In a speech this week at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Mr. Trump said he was "honored" to address an alliance that has "promoted safety and peace across the globe." But in the same speech, the president also criticized "23 of the 28 member nations" for not paying enough for their national defense.

Trump pressures NATO 06:43

"This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States," Mr. Trump said.

The president's emphasis on member states' financial contributions to the alliance, Mattis told "Face the Nation" host John Dickerson on Saturday, is in keeping with past administrations.

"Having been a NATO officer, under President Bush and President Obama, and then having been back there in Brussels representing the Department of Defense under President Trump…this is a consistent message that we have given the NATO nations," said Mattis.

"They get the best defense in the world, the NATO countries, and we've all got to be willing to deal with it like a bank: if you want to take something out of it you've got to put something into it."

The secretary of defense said that presidents Bush and Obama sent similar messages to NATO members.

"So what President Trump is doing is consistent with both prior Republican and Democrat administrations. And the bottom line is that nations are spending more on defense now than they were five years ago or ten years ago."

For more of Dickerson's interview with the secretary of defense, tune into "Face the Nation" tomorrow. Check your local listings for airtimes.